What happens when an employee is asked by the government to help with a natural disaster?
Q: One of our employees has medical training and has been deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help assist in a natural disaster out of state. How do we handle this situation?
A: The employee’s time out of the office is protected under federal law, and most likely, under state law as well. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) grants leave to certain employees with medical expertise when they are dispatched by the federal government to deal with natural disasters. Through the National Disaster Medical System, FEMA can call upon volunteers to attend training or serve as intermittent disaster-response workers providing medical assistance to victims. While the employee is called away for this special medical duty, USERRA protects their job and allows them to continue medical care coverage by self-paying, among other benefits. Most states have their own version that also protects the employee’s job.
As is often the case, there’s plenty more to consider in these kinds of situations, so be sure to connect with your employment attorney to get advice on your specific circumstances. Our employment attorneys are available to provide legal counsel to employers and can provide you with additional resources regarding wage and hour issues and state-specific leave laws.
For additional blogs regarding leave laws, view the leave laws section of our employment law blog.